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Another birthday. A holy privilege…

And just like that my 3rd baby is NINE. If we had stopped at 3–this would be our LAST year of single digits. Thankful I still have 3 more littles to soak in…but wow these first 3–it just has gone by so, so quickly.
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But tonight. Be still my heart. I took in 3 little buddies playing putt-putt and giggles over dinner. Hilarious banter the whole ride home–so innocent and sweet sharing places they had been with their families on trips together. Then they raced in and opened gifts…ahh–another Nerf gun in the mix which means he is STILL little.
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Birthdays make me sappy. Because I know this only gets faster. Tonight though–I take in this wrapping paper mess…the running of little feet…tiny shoes on the ground…and basketball sounds outside.
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This mom gig is hard–and crazy–and tiring. But then come birthdays. Some times I think they are also for US…to step back, remember and thank God for another year…and letting us be their mommies.
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Thank you for messes and the memories that I will cling to forever…and that they are happening right now in our home. Soon–before I know it–this noise, the banter and the connections will move beyond our home more often than in it…and we will get “filled in” rather than be in the middle of the memories. It’s his life–this sweet one who once needed me to eat and survive is growing up so fast right before our eyes. So tonight I’ll soak it in…even if it’s sitting at the bottom of the steps wiping away a tear of thanksgiving–that I get to do this…mess and crazy sports carpool and tired and all. THIS is a holy privilege. So here’s to another year.
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Happy birthday dearest Frank. You are going to rock nine my sweet son…the last single digit is going to be the best yet. We love you!

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A glimpse of who you are…

Last night I saw a glimpse of WHO she is. Yes–dressed in that little Woodstock costume–I saw a story I will retell her for the REST of her life. And it goes like this…
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You were a little yellow bird–Woodstock…Snoopy’s little friend. Your big brother was Snoopy and Daddy was the best Charlie Brown. We were at Trunk-or-Treat at church…and a few missed the “no scary costumes” memo…but I’m pretty sure those were the people who never saw it…because they are sweet community people we are here to serve.
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This picture isn’t from that moment because I was watching you too close. I knew you were scared. You saw that scary mask from a very scary movie–you dropped candy in his bag. You looked up again. Your little arms started TREMBLING with fear. You looked back at me for help–I don’t think you could move. Then you stiffly walked the best you could back to me still shaking.
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I wanted to pick you up. But I waited not wanting to build more fear in your sweet little soul. Instead of reaching for me, you reached to get more candy. You turned around–and bee-lined right back to him. And fear and grace and love…and a BRAVE trembling baby girl met her fear in the face…and you gave him more candy…more love–more “I will be your friend”.
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This. THIS is who you are. Who shall you fear? So go out there sweet girl…on the first day of preschool, kindergarten, your first team tryout…college…that interview. You go face your fears in the face–and shower them with more of WHO you are and WHOSE you are. Fearless. Brave. His. Because most of what we fear is really just a mask–it’s not real…it just needs more of exactly what you have🙌🏻👊🏼

–love. Mom.

The Lord gives us stories daily…to show us who are children are. Let us write them down. So that when hard days come–we can help them remember.

 

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So Was I [Made For So Much More]

It’s been too long since I wrote in this space. Much has happened since I wrote last–and I hope to come here more often…simply to document His faithfulness in my life. So my children can read it later–and see how good my Father is…to me, to us and to everything that He has created…even those who don’t yet follow or know His name…maybe someone reading this doesn’t know Him personally as their Father–yet they can still see His goodness in their life too.

I was driving home this afternoon after meeting with my friends Paula, Catherine and Hallie as we met to plan “The Well”–a monthly gathering for middle school girls and their moms to taste the Living Water at the Well at Alpharetta First Baptist. Ahhh…sounds HEAVENLY doesn’t it? Catherine and Hallie were raving about this song by Hillsong version by Bethel Music sung by Amanda Cook–and of course Paula and I with our 11 small children between us–sat…clueless. But we scribbled down the title to listen to later…and–have you heard it? You must. Because a million thoughts came through my soul as I did… {Listen here if the graphic isn’t showing up}

Here I am. 40 y’all. FORTY.

Leaving a meeting planning for the HEARTS of MIDDLE SCHOOL GIRLS. (Y’all this is full on amazing–God stirring…if you know a middle school girl please tell her and her mama about this so they can join us!)

Wasn’t I just there? In middle school? How did I turn 40?

Reflecting on my own personal walk with Jesus. Overwhelmed by His goodness.

A walk much like yours. Broken.

Because y’all. We don’t start with Jesus.

And without Him it’s broken.

Even with Him–hard things happen…more brokenness and need for Him.

Yet the wind blows at His command–and just standing outside I can see nature praise Him.

So will I.

My middle school and high school years were beyond broken. Layers upon layers. And now at 40, God would choose to shake things up for me right here and take me back to where roads began to get bumpy…and let me hold hands with girls and their mommas…

Lifting our hands to our Creator to say We are trusting you together for stories beyond ourselves…knowing we were made for so much more–together… 

He brought me to Himself as a new high school graduate. Thank you Jesus for keeping me alive. That’s all.

He led me to India at 21 to see the world…that He would later use opening my eyes to the world in my own family.

Shaking in my boots–I held a degree from Auburn in my hand and instead of using it got on a plane to share the gospel in a communist country. My faith was rattled as I saw new believers questioned and arrested…how the words I was sharing–how I could rock their worlds forever–then the stars. The One who put the stars in place quieted us…seeing that there was a plan even in this. 

He never said it would be easy. Or the world would agree. But to just lift our hands and trust the One who put those stars in place. That even in the broken way He had the most beautiful plan. Actually–His plan would come out of the broken way…so in the deep end…in the days you really don’t have strength to think about tomorrow–THIS…this would be His way. Where we relied on His strength to carry us. To be enough.

Do I believe it?

The ENOUGH part?

Yes.

Yes–now I do.

But it took me awhile.

I said it for a long time. I went across the world to tell it. But it took me awhile…like a long while to really bleed it.

Oh sweet friends.

Where ever you are today–know that He really is enough.

And in the brokenness–He has a plan.

And some times just rising as the kite hits the ground a million times slowly rising before it soars…so much running–and trying again…and again–and the falling…

Even in the brokenness–some times the raising hands rest before the waters still. We raise our hands as creation does–realizing it is the very place to just rest and wait in. And it’s in the rockiest of waters the sail is fullest and windiest of days the kite really soars.

Last night–I was thinking of the hard years.

By 40–you have a few.

Raising 2 babies very close together. Then struggling for years not being able to get pregnant. Not feeling I could even share out loud the longing because we DID have 2 healthy babies. Silent I held in hurt. Then God using our longing to grow our family through adoption–and surprising us with two boys the same age three years later…my twins–both from brokenness…our years of struggle and another from a broken story in Ethiopia.

Thank you Jesus for the years of waiting. Thank you Jesus for the hard. Thank you Jesus for your plans when they don’t make sense in the storm.

I thought how thankful I was for Lyme disease. And the hardest year before I would experience complete healing. How I had 4 young children but couldn’t pick any of them up. God provided sweet Karissa to nanny–and I got to watch her love on my children and do all the things I couldn’t do. God–you reminded me that these kids are NOT mine. But. They. Are. YOURS. And over and over and over again–I’m going to have to trust them into the care of others…and many times trust them on their own–but not ALONE. Because YOU. You are enough.

Like the precious mom who checked in on my son in Ethiopia for me while he was in an orphanage–and the video she took was shaking…and her explanation–the presence of the LORD is with your son. She said she felt Him, and it was almost unbelievable. Well–believe this…He is enough. Enough to be all our children need when we are there. And when we aren’t. I raise my hands. I praise you Lord. Truly You are enough.

At the height of my Lyme pain–you asked us to host a teenager about to age out of an orphanage in Ukraine. REALLY? RIGHT now? When I can’t even lift my children you think this is a great idea? TRUST ME…you said. Shaking in my boots again–we did. One week before that plane full of precious ones coming to America to spend it with families landed…I was completely healed and had the doctor’s test to prove it. That alone would be enough to praise Him for all my days right? I told Him I would forever sing His praises…and for 6 sweet years since I have been able to share this story with hundreds battling the same illness. Yet…He doesn’t stop there..His goodness and His glory and His blessing and His favor…just keep going and going and going.

Who would have thought He had more of His glory for us…but as this teenager coming with years and layers joined our family that summer…the day of her 16th birthday–the day she aged out of a system that never brought a family…she let the walls come down and confessed she wished for a family–she changed her mind…she would want to be adopted. It would take a miracle. It would take a family already in Ukraine. Already with a court date. A family who could submit her name to a judge that very week. I hit my knees and raised my hand. I cried out to Jesus. I didn’t understand–and I also asked Him how He could be so cruel to let her taste family, give her a desire for it the day she aged out and not allow her to have it. I rocked. I cried. How could I look her in the eye and tell her about this good God who really did love her? I told Richard we would just move to Ukraine.  I was desperate. Go to your email I heard Him whisper. And in the watches of the night there was an email from a family in Ukraine. Who lived in OUR city. Who had read my blog. Who wondered if just maybe she wanted a family. And could they Skype…and talk with her…and could we pray? Praise you Lord? Oh–so will I.

I was also pregnant…God had healed me in June and given us a baby during this sweet summer loving this precious teenager. God had given us a longed for baby–years and years and years of longing–and we Skyped and watched God birth this precious family across the world in our living room and in their hotel in Ukraine. We GOT to see this miracle unfold before our very eyes.

I couldn’t see at the time Andra and Travis…her parents would really be her parents…the very best of parents. A Christian counselor and the most tender daddy a girl could hope for. I couldn’t see they would be some of our best friends spending holidays together–birthdays and the most special family events. I couldn’t see they would be our family too–and that God orchestrated everything to the last detail…at the last minute–actually what felt like a minute too late…but He would ask us all to trust Him…to step out in faith…BLIND FAITH…and just follow. We couldn’t see how glorious the end was–BUT. He could.

This precious one flew back to her country–met her family and was adopted. And on the very day–the very hour–they passed court and I received the text…I sat in an OB/GYN and waited. And heard…nothing. We have a daughter! their text said. I would need this miracle of a moment for what would come seconds later. My little girl…was gone. But God gave us that gift–the same hour…and as they praised…so did I. I knew the Lord gave the Martins the news the same time we received our news–because He loved ME so much…He loved us so much…He would give me reason to praise in the storm and reassurance that He is in our story even in the storm–and also a reminder that He had both of our girls in His hands. In the midst of uncertainty–unknowns–unrest…WE COULD TRUST HIM…and just follow.

Without knowing the answers…steps of faith…and trust.

They landed.

And His glory.

REVEALED with her hands.

Hands high.

HOME.

It takes a while to make sense of it all. For some 16 years of waiting…for some a life time. Maybe even some unanswered brokenness until you ask Jesus yourself. But–I believe. I believe He is worthy of our praise and good in all of them.

Thank you Jesus for your plans that feel painful.

Even they—they are good.

The grave.

We leave behind.

We are raised…

BECAUSE YOU WERE RAISED.

Darkness doesn’t have a foothold.

Oh no.

It’s a story only YOU could write.

The broken pieces are part of the glory of the story.

When the doctor said we could try again–we picked a sure way this time;)–and got online—to pray over waiting children.

We found our son that night in the holiness of brokenness…too scared to try again any other way. And even there–He met us–and said it was okay. And there was reason in it.

And 9 months later we flew across the world to bring him home. He is my kindred spirit and very much my heart. Our little girl who dances with Jesus helped us find this little guy who shows me daily more of who Jesus is as he folds himself into me and calls me mama.

This child who bravely blew kisses and waved goodbye to all he ever knew–and trusted in blind faith that we were good and would meet his needs and would love him wildly for all of his days…oh he is teaching me.

Oh this child I needed. God has used this baby boy–now home 4 years and a sweet 6 year old–to heal so many places in my life…we needed each other. Thank you Jesus for YOUR WAY.

And at 40.

God would give us another baby.

Four years after coming home from China with the child that shares my heartbeat…God would surprise us after 8 years thinking my body doesn’t work like that any more. It almost made me want to giggle like Sarah in Genesis because starting over at 40 I would have never dreamed.

Only His plan was so much greater than one I could have written. Our youngest boys needed a baby to rock in ways I couldn’t imagine. For them…I learned–in their little hearts they thought adoption was how families grew. Yes–this is one of the ways. But they got to see this other way He created families to grow–and it has been amazing for them to hold her…rock her…and grow in tenderness and love.

Rocking a baby is healing to our hearts…and for theirs it’s been so sweet to watch. For my 40 year old body–it’s been harder to bounce back, lose sleep and chase a toddler–but now I get it. I get the waiting in my 20’s. I get the loss in my 30’s. What once felt so broken and confusing now feels so whole.

Surrounded by so many things that don’t make sense in our world–the trees move…the clouds change shape and the mountains proclaim WHO He is.

He is big.

He is glorious.

He is real.

He is enough.

He can be trusted.

He doesn’t make sense…but oh He is good.

At the height of Created for Care–a ministry for adopted and foster moms…with a wait list a mile long every year–after 7 years…He says…STOP.

Really?

Right now?

When things are good???

Just stop?

I heard Him say…Bad things are not the only things I will ask to end. Some times I will ask good things to end too. Trust me.

Go where He calls.

Most of the time…no all of the time–in the call–the puzzles won’t all fit together. It won’t make sense.

Faith. The whisper is sure. His can’t be mistaken. It pulls. It welcomes. It’s not without wonder or shaky fear…TRUST.

Now follow–He says.

Listen.

And just come closer.

Bit by bit–follow Me.

For this season for me–it’s now sitting with middle school girls and their moms…on our knees…with our hands up…just saying we love Him and we will follow where He leads us…

Maybe stopping some things–means more say yes in new ways to Him. Maybe numbers never matter to Jesus–big or small. He sees just one and says she is enough to die for. He just wants us to listen and follow. To trust and watch His glory be revealed.

In the big things…unexpected things…in the small things…He just wants us to SEE. To really see. To see Him. To see His glory.

In May our donkey had a baby. We had waited so long. She birthed a precious–quite large–male donkey foal. Yet for the first days of his life–it was pretty apparent he couldn’t see. A donkey is a protective animal by instinct–and they are kept in pastures to protect herds. They will kill coyotes in a flat second. So to keep a blind donkey with young children would be beyond dangerous–it would be foolish. A vet could explain how our donkey was very large for a foal so his neck was turned possibly leading the muscles to be too tight or not flexed enough–and with time the eyes rolled back forward. Explain it however you want–but the first week he couldn’t see and we laid hands on this donkey and prayed. We waited. We hoped. Our children prayed with us.

And He healed.

And we have a healthy, healed baby donkey named Eli.

I don’t understand when He does and when He doesn’t choose to heal. And it’s beyond me how He would answer the prayers and the longing and the hope…for a donkey. I don’t understand it. It doesn’t make sense. My hands go up. All creation praises Him. SO WILL I.

And I remember moving my mouth to the words that day after our miscarriage—our first Sunday back. How could they play that song on a day like that day? How could I stand and sing? With pains in my abdomen still cramping I tried to sing, “He gives and takes away. He gives and takes away…My heart will choose to say…blessed be His name.”

A baby…in His arms.

A donkey…healed.

I don’t have to understand. But I trust Him.

Months after Eli was healed, we watched a friend with a son head into heart surgery. We longed for, and we prayed for him. With belief in the God I watched heal the foal in my backyard–I knew He cared even more for this precious boy. The world came around this precious one and prayed. We believed for and hoped for and begged for. We cried out together. And believed some more.

The healing didn’t look the same.

My heart felt so heavy and at a loss for words of praise…as this sweet child passed from this world to heaven.

And I wanted to rock and weep as I had as we drove home from the hospital after hearing the silence of no heartbeat. But I know deep down…He is still who He is.

And we watch.

And we wait.

And with tears the wind again blows.

Creation still sings.

So will I. 

So will I. 

So will I. 

Oh this one feels hard. But so will I.

Again I sing… {I love this version too…listen here if the graphic isn’t showing up}

Overwhelmed.

Because 40.

A life half lived–and already…so much of His glory and goodness…and healing through hard.

I will praise Him.

No matter what.

Oh sweet friends. Step outside. See creation praising Him. Remember His faithfulness. Let us trust Him. With all the pieces in a mess on the table…with only One guide to follow putting it together. In the mess. In the dark. In the confusion. In the pain. In the joy. In the beginning and middle and end of the story He is writing for you. Praise Him.

And…

So will I.

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Writing in the midst of crazy…

Y’all.

I miss writing. So much. But I’ve been a busy mama hen with my 6 littles and planning Created for Care this year. I have so much crazy on our farm right now–getting ready for pregnant miniature donkey to arrive THIS Wednesday…our goats, chickens, homeschooling, some in school, and a baby on my hip–oh my…just crazy fun. If you are on Instagram you see it in all it’s glory–bless us. Never a dull moment over here!

I’ve been writing monthly as a contributor still at No Hands But Ours–because you know I have to have a writing outlet! You can catch up with us and what’s been on my heart in between mommying on this page linked to my monthly writing.

After the Created for Care March retreat, I hope to write more here–but until then I’ll be posting monthly as a writer for NHBO and prepping to love on foster and adoption mommas at our retreats.

Our Holiday/New Year’s picture…um yes–I still have a STACK of unsent cards sitting on my kitchen counter that will probably go out after March too! Until then–here’s the latest sweetest from our home to yours…

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Can’t wait to share all the Lord does through C4C this year!! I’m convinced this is going to be the best year in our 7 years of retreats!!! Our theme is “God Writes the Best Stories” and while most coming have children from hard places with stories that started with brokenness–we also believe He has a beautiful plan for the hard beginning bathed in HOPE with an amazing plan for each of our children and our families.

Alright–off to work on lots of details to bless those mamas–and baby #6 is STILL not sleeping through the night with her reflux y’all…so prayers up for sleep so I can serve well!!!

Xoxo!

Andrea:)

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One Group You Don’t Want Your Church to be Without {the greatest generation}

I might be turning 40 soon, but one “group” I don’t put myself in yet–is “old people”. I like to pretend I recently graduated from college and I’m a cool, young married person with (Um…) 6 kids. Okay–who am I kidding? I mean–who has 6 kids anyway? Certainly not cool, young married people;)

Let’s just say we like to walk into the “young married” Sunday school at church and pretend:). Also–we used to go to a big church that did away with Sunday school. What the what? Let me just say Sunday school people is brilliant. Your kids learn about Jesus while you learn about Jesus with other couples your age. Why in the world we’d want to do away with Sunday school is beyond me. We’ve loved the “small groups” we’ve been apart of–but Sunday school is a pretty sweet set up with childcare not only in place…but also sweet community for our youngsters to meet with other kids their age and grow in Christ together–something that is hard to pull off with a small group too.

Church has been an important part of our lives for a long, long time. We’ve been down some sweet roads–rocky roads–and even hard, confusing ones with the churches the Lord has led us to. Each served a purpose–and we finally feel we have landed home. If you have given up on the church or the church search for the one you feel at home in–I get it. I really, really do. But can I just encourage you–don’t give up. Sweet community really is found in the church. Also–the church is a mess—simply because it’s full of messy people.

Grace.

Give lots of grace and don’t give up.

It dawned on me a few months ago as I rocked Janie Claire outside in the halls at our sweet church in Alpharetta we are calling home–what we’ve really been missing out on. For 10 years we were at a non-denominational church that had a black pastor, a hispanic ministry and it was in the middle of Roswell–so it was quite diverse. Yet–there was something missing.

We had grown a bit comfortable, and the Lord led us to branch out a bit for a smaller church. For 1 year after our short search, we were at a newer church meeting in a school cafeteria. We had a bit of a roller coaster ride saying yes to some hard needs in the church–and soon realized this wasn’t our church home either. This momma wanted to run right back to comfortable–to the church we’d been a part of for 10 years. But. I knew there was something missing.

We began visiting other churches hoping to find a place to grow our children up in, and after visiting so many bigger churches in our area (in the city–one thing we aren’t missing is big mega churches)—we found ourselves landing at a traditional Baptist church. Now I grew up Baptist and said I’d never land at one as legalism was something I struggled with when I was newer in my faith. But…this just felt like home last Christmas when we finally landed here. Finally.

Months later, I rocked Janie Claire outside the sanctuary–and as the traditional chapel service ended before the contemporary worship service–I made lots of friends as I bounced our new little one. These friends who attended the traditional chapel service–they are all over 70 years old. I realized it had been over a decade that we’d attended a church with significant elderly attendance. In fact MOST of the churches we visited had very few elderly people.

It wasn’t until these long Sunday conversations that I’d realized how much I’d missed being in community with elderly specifically at church. Then it dawned on me that so many of our churches have worked so hard at reaching the younger generations and providing cutting edge worship and such–that many churches are missing this age demographic altogether.

I didn’t feel the void of that until we had it again–and oh my…am I catching up on the sweetness of these group of older, wiser men and women who have gone before us and offer so much.

1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

There have been so many sweet conversations at church each Sunday in those halls…that now I must also confess Richard and I are attending and loving the traditional service in the chapel full of it’s hymns and older generation that we’ve so long missed.

We’ve learned lately…

…the hymns we sing in chapel have stood the test of time. There is such healing, truth and encouragement in so many traditional hymns. I grew up singing these and hearing them now stirs a bit of a revival in my heart. Gosh–they are so beautiful and so good. (I am currently reading a hymn and studying a hymn each week and it’s sweet origin with my 2nd grader who is still homeschooling. This is our favorite book for reading and learning hymn history It’s SO GOOD!). I have to recommend Fernando Ortego for bringing hymns into your home. He’s on repeat in mine. Get a taste of the simplicity and peaceful worship here. I really think it’s so important for our children to also learn worship songs that speak to them NOW–songs that will still be played 50 years from now too.

…our elders offer such funny, sweet and true perspective. Lately, for example–they remind me that while I’m missing out on a lot of sleep with our 6th child–one day I’ll be where they are. I’ll be reliving these days over and over again in my mind. And…I will be able to sleep all day–whenever I want to. Only–I’ll be daydreaming mostly about these days of motherhood I’m in now. (I leave church every Sunday so encouraged by their words.)

…most of what we are tempting to worry about–really isn’t worth worrying about. Tell someone about 50 years ahead of you what’s on your heart–and you’ll get the most realistic, eye-opening, laid-back and real advice you can ever ask for. I’m reminded over and over again what REALLY matters. Most of the time–what is burdening my heart I soon realize I really can give that to Jesus and trust Him–and I have all I need.

…Grace. We all need grace. And we need to give a lot of grace. Simple as that. I can stay at home for rest time and miss Bible study or worship time–and my sweet old friends give me so much grace. They even grab me the next week and ask if everything is okay–and remind me that I was missed. It’s good to be missed. We live in a culture where so many churches are so mega that we can often not feel missed or miss others–or we are too busy to let them know how much we missed our friends who were missing and to do the simply thing and just check in. I know this sounds so simple–but these simple acts of love and friendship are becoming a missed and void art in friendship and brotherly/sisterly love in Christ.

How thankful I am the Lord led us to the church He led us to. I never ever imagined that I’d be slipping into the traditional service with my elderly friends. I guess I’m making up for lost time after being in churches for so long that had so few of this generation to lead us. But how thankful I am how He leads and what He’s teaching me after so many years of missing this most precious, wise generation of friends.

Please forgive any typos and such–this mom has hardly any time to write much less proof read what she does:) Blessings to you!

 

Andrea

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